Deserved or not, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is a lightning rod for criticism. He's the face of a franchise that bills itself as "America's Team" but hasn't been to the playoffs since the 2009 season. In the three years since, Dallas hasn't finished above .500, although Romo was rewarded with a six-year, $108 million extension in March.
In Romo's defense, he's in a tough spot; owner Jerry Jones refuses to relinquish his GM duties, which has led to holes on the roster that have nothing to do with the quarterback. As we noted almost a year ago, Romo is one of the NFL's most efficient passers, according to FootballOutsiders.com's metrics. In 2011, he ranked fourth in value-per-play behind Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. In 2012, Romo was sixth. Clearly, he's not the Cowboys' biggest problem.
In fact, Hall of Famer and former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach thinks Romo is capable of leading the team back to the Super Bowl.
“I think Tony Romo is a championship quarterback,” Staubach said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “He can take a team to a championship. He can't do it by himself, but I really believe he can do it. I just see what he does on the field, the plays he makes, the throws he makes, the sense that he has to move in the pocket, so I'm pulling really hard for Tony because I really believe he is one heck of a quarterback. And that's a feeling from somebody that I didn't say that about any other quarterbacks except for Troy Aikman. I think Tony is the right quarterback, and we're lucky to have Tony Romo.”
High praise … that's likely to be ridiculed by Romo's critics. But Staubach points out that the Cowboys could have been much better than their 8-8 record.
“Dallas will have a shot at it,” he continued. “When you're 8-8, you can be 10-6. The Giants a few years ago were 7-7 and ended up 9-7 and got to the Super Bowl. Last year, Baltimore was kind of hurting at the end of the year. If Dez Bryant doesn't have two fingers out of bounds, who knows. So at least I think Dallas has got the talent to be competitive with the league. We have to hope that we can get to the playoffs and once you're in the playoffs, anything can happen.”
Of course, the shoulda-coulda-woulda theory holds for every team. The difference is that the good ones find ways to win the games they shouldn't while the mediocre ones spend January and February on their couches with the rest of us.
So is Romo a championship quarterback? The better question might be: Can Jerry Jones get out of his own way long enough for the front office to surround Romo with players who give the Cowboys a legitimate shot at a title run?
For now, the answer to the latter remains a steadfast "no way."
Follow Ryan Wilson on Google+